Image by Jigglypuff
There is a common misconception in the community that Earth Spirit is an absurdly complicated hero. Over the years, a certain aura has developed around the character, with many players outright ignoring Earth Spirit, because they think he is too hard to execute. Today we would like to shatter this myth, as well as propose a potential new role for the hero.
One of the most recent patches removed the additional benefits from attributes and Earth Spirit definitely lost quite a lot from it. But the big reason he was hit harder than most heroes is that his attribute growth is absolutely terrifying. Earth Spirit gets 4.4 Strength and 2.4 Agility per level: his Str growth is second among all heroes and his Agi growth is second among all Strength heroes.
This is the reason why this hero is so incredibly tanky: he gets a ton of HP with each level, while keeping up in the Armor and AS department as well. That is what allowed Topson to successfully try the hero in mid back in the day and this is the reason we firmly believe that Earth Spirit can be a pretty powerful core hero: with levels alone he can become a tanky frontliner for his team, while also putting out a ton of mixed damage.
The big problem with melee supports was always that they found it harder to trade effectively in lane. The only exceptions currently are Ogre Magi and Nyx Assassin, who both have massive starting regen values and good armor. Heroes like Tusk and Earthshaker are less of “consistent HP traders” and more of “precision strikers” and that makes them incredibly high-risk in a support position: not something you want to typically gamble with in the current meta and not necessarily the best idea for Solo Q matchmaking.
Earth Spirit faces a similar problem, but his early level tools aren’t as impactful: Tusk’s Tag Team can kill a support out of position in a matter of seconds, while a well-placed Fissure will allow you to hit the enemy with impunity. At level one Earth Spirit has a 0.8 second stun that is typically followed up by a 1.25 second slow at level two.
Both Rolling Boulder and Boulder Smash scale strongly and can reach pretty crazy values, if and only if, Earth Spirit gets enough levels. And, as discussed previously, he doesn’t roam as well, doesn’t offer as much lane presence as some other melee supports and can’t recover in the jungle. So, the hero is very powerful, but only if he gets some time to actually get into the game. This is where switching him to a core position starts making sense.
There are two main ways the heroes are categorized in Dota: it either follows a numerical one to five system, or uses lanes as an indicator. Many wrongly assume that these categorization types are one and the same, but while they are typically in line with each other, they do diverge in certain cases.
Earth Spirit in a core position is best suited to be a position three hero, but not necessarily in the offlane. He excels at being a tanky frontline for his team, he is a good candidate for utility items and auras and his job isn’t to farm up and get even bigger—it is to get early levels and start making plays.
You can achieve this in mid, as Topson did back in the day. You can take the offlane, or you can even go to your safelane, if your carry doesn’t match up well against the enemy offlaner. Regardless of where you go initially, you should be the one initiating fights and going for team items come midgame, much like a support Earth Spirit would, but with much higher effectiveness and consistency.
There is no reason for a 2s stun on a 4s cooldown not to work in a world of Dota, especially if we are talking of achieving this before minute 10. Couple it with a pretty powerful Silence and Slow and slap all of this on an innately tanky body and you get the exact description of a good position three hero in the current meta. And the praise is far from over.
You also get a pretty powerful teamfight ultimate, which, once again, is at its best before the enemy gets a chance to purchase their BKBs. 50 damage per second for six seconds is already pretty strong, but when you start adding stones to the equation, you can get to pretty ridiculous numbers. Magnetize melts supports and as long as you can utilize your remnants in a smart way, using them for both Magnetize and an extra spell, your Remnant economy should be fine. Once again, it is not all.
Earth Spirit, for some inexplicable reason, also gets one of the strongest level 10 talents in the game: +50 Damage at level 10 on a hero with a “normal” BAT and great Agility growth allows him to dish out pretty powerful right-clicks decently often. That doesn’t mean Earth Spirit should attempt to transition into a right-clicking core by the end of the game, but it does open up a lot of options in the early midgame, where solo-killing a support becomes more or less trivial.
All of the above can also be achieved without a Blink Dagger investment, but if and only if Earth Spirit can get a stable laning stage with a consistent XP flow. He doesn’t even need to win the lane outright, he just needs to get to his level seven and level ten in a timely manner.
So why are we not seeing more position three Earth Spirit in the professional scene? We believe part of it is definitely habit: there is a reason professional players have “signature heroes”—they train them extensively and know ins and outs of how to utilize them effectively. Earth Spirit is definitely a hero that requires a great deal of understanding and muscle memory to be excellent and since the hero was mostly played as a position four, not many offlaners can boast prowess on the hero even remotely comparable to the prowess of Jerax or Cr1t.
Additionally, and this is pretty important, Earth Spirit’s hard lockdown is mostly single-target. Most currently popular offlane heroes have ways to reliably stun multiple enemies at the same time and while they might lack Earth Spirit’s damage output or extra utility with slows and silences, they do their primary job slightly better, or perhaps not better, but in a way that makes the following decision tree much more calculable and predictable for their teammates.
Earth Spirit also doesn’t farm as fast: we pointed out time and time again how the hero isn’t about farming and about making plays, but he still needs to be able to shove waves and get extra items in the downtime between fights. He can do that with his combos, but it is somewhat costly in terms of resources and doesn’t truly become a viable option until after the hero already has levels.
Finally, the hero offers close to nothing in terms of push. While Centaur can tank and retaliate to tower damage and Mars can protect his teammates from tower fire even through Glyph of Fortification, Earth Spirit can only hit the tower with his right-clicks, which are somewhat substantial, but are definitely not on par with other offlaners. For the hero to be a good pick, your supports or at least one of your cores should be able to deal good tower damage, otherwise you will be forced to win multiple fights for a single objective: not something Earth Spirit and his limited Remnant Economy are too keen on doing.
Despite what it may look like, the aim of the series isn’t to ruin pubs, but rather to enrich the experience for both new and veteran players. Truth is, for the vast majority of players the “professional meta” should be irrelevant: the best teams in the world base their hero selections on their level of play and the level of play of their opponents and the sheer amount of mistakes players do even in the Immortal bracket should make the same logic and understanding of the meta less applicable to pubs.
We strongly believe that an off-meta hero played well is a lot better than the most popular and successful pro-scene hero played poorly, at least when it comes to pubs. Finding the hero you enjoy in a particular role and finding ways to make them work is probably the ultimate Dota experience and we are here to help you with the inspiration.